“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” — Revelation 3:19
“When we walk alone,” I tell my children both at home and in my ministries, “When we choose not to obey God’s commands or listen to those He places in authority, we are walking outside the boundaries of His protection.” I have the kids sit in a circle during group discussions and prayer time. “Within this circle,” I then explain to them, “We are in obedience and therefore under an ‘umbrella’ of God’s protection and joy.”
I have found that in ministries serving children, there is no telling what combination of personalities and discipline a group of friends will bring with them. Quite often children join us who do not know what self-control is. Some question all authority and balk at it. I’ve even met some sweet children who’ve been taught the world revolves around them. Many children have a great deal of skill in being obstinate and very little practice with submission, obedience, humility, honor, respect for others, or even love.
From their response to discipline and boundaries, I know which children have experience with consistency and healthy discipline and which children definitely have not. You know what, I believe I am growing past being frustrated or deterred by their behaviors. I actually feel encouraged to apply discipline lovingly. I love them too much not to teach them right from wrong, and I tell them this. After all, God loves me enough to discipline me, and He has prepared me and called me to share this love with His children.
It is our responsibility as parents and leaders to teach right ways of living. God has given us these proper ways through His word. Let’s skip what he tells us not to be and look at what He has told us to be in Titus 1:8,9:
“Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
How can our children oppose those who refute sound doctrine and hold firmly to the trustworthy message; how can our children be hospitable; love what is good; and be self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined if they are not taught this? How can they one day teach generations after them, if they were never truly led by the generation before them? How can they know they are loved if they were never loved enough to be taught right from wrong? We have been commanded as God’s people to bring His commands to the children in our care:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” — Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Some day we will all be faced by the consequences of our actions. We will either face pleasant consequences or condemnation – children need to know this at an early age because they are eternal beings with eternal consequences like the rest of us. Remember: “When we are judged by the LORD, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” –I Corinthians 11:32
I have found that children thrive in an environment of loving, consistent, healthy discipline. The most difficult behaviors have been broken within the boundaries of Christ’s love.
LORD, I am so grateful for your discipline. Thank you for preparing me and using me to teach your children who You are and your good plans for them. I love them, LORD. Each of them is so lovably unique, and I am excited to watch them grow in the protection of your doctrine and will. Bless them please, and grant me the patience to continue to grow with them as their leader. I pray that these future leaders will stay true and obedient to You, and that we as parents and leaders will one day celebrate with them in your glory knowing that we all continued to teach your discipline and truth in love to future generations until the day You return. Amen.